How do you replace a man like Michy Batshuayi? That’s the question that Borussia Dortmund’s top brass will have to answer quickly after the Chelsea-owned Belgium striker was ruled out for the remainder of the campaign with a serious ankle injury.
The loss of the 24-year-old is a serious blow for BVB as they continue to push for a place in next season’s UEFA Champions League, but coach Peter Stöger does have options. bundesliga.com runs the rule over the players who could fill those big Belgian boots…
Watch: The goals Dortmund need to replace - every one of Batshuayi's for BVB to date!
1) Mario Götze
Pros: An attacking midfielder by trade, Götze has previously been deployed in the false nine position for both Bayern Munich and Germany, and no goal better illustrates his ability to spring from deep than his stunning winner against Argentina in the 2014 FIFA World Cup final. Thanks to his exceptional technique and keen eye for goal, the 25-year-old could certainly do a job at the forefront of Dortmund’s attack, especially as he looks to convince Joachim Löw that he is worthy of a place at this summer’s World Cup in Russia.
Cons: Götze’s creative talents mean that he could well be wasted at centre-forward, while his relatively diminutive stature (5’9”) and slight frame make him unlikely to put defences under the same pressure as the hulking Batshuayi (6’1”). A false nine is also required to squeeze their way through the opposition ranks, but the former Bayern man has only won 31 of his 70 attempted dribbles this season. The uncertainty around his World Cup participation may also be having a negative effect on Götze’s morale.
Pros: With Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang now plying his trade at Arsenal and Batshuayi out of commission, Philipp is the most prolific man at Stöger’s disposal, with seven goals in 17 Bundesliga appearances. While the 24-year-old prefers cutting in from a wide position, he has shown that he can keep his cool in front of goal, netting braces in the thumping home wins over Cologne and Borussia Mönchengladbach. Also on target in the recent victory over VfB Stuttgart, Philipp looks the most natural fit to replace Batshuayi, having played as a centre-forward or No.10 in his early days at Freiburg.
Cons: Philipp adds pace and thrust from out wide in Stöger’s 4-2-3-1, and moving him into the middle could upset BVB’s attacking balance. Then again, the Austrian has plenty of other options on the wing — aside from those mentioned here — including Marco Reus, Christian Pulisic and Jadon Sancho.
Pros: Like Philipp, Schürrle is capable of playing across the attack, and actually had his most prolific Bundesliga season - 15 goals for Mainz in 2010/11 - when alternating between the centre-forward role and his natural position on the left wing. Injury problems have prevented the 27-year-old from hitting the heights of his Mainz, Bayer Leverkusen and Wolfsburg days, but he certainly has the talent and experience to lead the line for BVB. Schürrle's excellent scoring record for Germany - 22 goals in 57 appearances - is another cause for optimism, and like Götze, he’ll be doing everything in his power to book a spot on the plane to Russia this summer.
Watch: Schürrle, Götze and Reus fit and firing!
Cons: Schürrle has already started a handful of games this season at centre-forward, but so far he has only managed a single goal, in the dramatic 3-2 away win over Cologne. Though he has chipped in with four assists, the Germany winger may be a little rusty when it comes to finding the back of the net - especially as he has only started 10 games during an injury-hit campaign.
Pros: The man who wears the Dortmund No.9 shirt has proven goalscoring pedigree, having hit double figures with Dynamo Kyiv for seven straight seasons before his switch to the Bundesliga last summer. Though a foot injury has kept him sidelined since late January, the Ukraine international is back at full fitness and could be given the chance to add to his goals against Augsburg, Hannover and Leverkusen. At an imposing 6’3”, the 28-year-old would also make a useful target man in and around the penalty area, either to hold up play or get on the end of crosses.
Cons: Though he began life on the left flank and has very occasionally flirted with a classic striker’s role, Yarmolenko’s true home is out on the right, where he has the liberty to cut inside onto his preferred left foot. It is in this position that he starred for Kyiv, scoring 137 goals in 340 appearances, while his international record is just as impressive as Schürrle’s: 33 goals in 74 caps for Ukraine. Yarmolenko also hasn’t played a Bundesliga game since late January, and will therefore be lacking match fitness.
Pros: Apart from Batshuayi, Isak is the only natural centre-forward in Dortmund’s ranks, although the 18-year-old has made just a handful of Bundesliga appearances since joining from AIK Solna in January 2017. There is no questioning his ability — he scored 10 goals in 24 games in the 2016 Allsvenskan campaign, and then became Sweden’s youngest ever international goalscorer just before moving to BVB — but Stöger appears unlikely to gamble Dortmund’s European hopes on a player who is still very much a work in progress.
Cons: Isak’s rapid rise through the ranks led to him being dubbed “the next Zlatan Ibrahimovic” — but he has struggled to live up to that reputation at Dortmund, playing just 116 minutes of the current campaign. With some concerns over his physical fitness, the young Swede has been limited to a bit-part role, although Batshuayi’s injury means he will likely get some game time off the bench in the final month of the season.
6) Emre Aydinel
Pros: “Emre who?”, you may well be asking. The 18-year-old - born in Germany but with Turkish roots - has been one of the star performers for Dortmund’s Under-19s this term, notching no fewer than 17 goals in 21 games. He would certainly be a left-field choice for Stöger, although stranger things have happened in football. Either way, the former Germany U17 player is one to keep an eye on in the coming months and years.
Cons: Though it has been proven in the past that you can in fact win things with kids, Dortmund are highly unlikely to throw a player who has never made a senior appearance in at the deep end, especially with some tricky games to come against Leverkusen, Werder Bremen and Hoffenheim. Furthermore, like several players mentioned above, Aydinel’s natural position is as an attacking midfielder, rather than an out-and-out striker.
Pros: If Aydinel was a left-field choice, Moukoko would be an option from somewhere high up in the Signal Iduna Park stands, but the 13-year-old — yes, you read that right — has earned himself a mention due to his goalscoring heroics with the Dortmund U17s. The Cameroon-born prodigy - who grabbed a Revierderby hat-trick against the Schalke U17s last October - has amassed a whopping 31 goals in 19 games this season, and looks set to take the footballing world by storm if and when he turns professional.
Watch: Skip to 2:20 in this video from the DFB below to see Moukoko strut his stuff
Cons: He’s 13. Come on.